Your Walls Can Talk – Find Out What They’re Saying

Stephanie Reshel

The growing use of technology and its resulting data are having a significant impact on energy and utility companies worldwide. In fact, the utility sector is forecast to experience 93% data growth since 2015, with 84% of it being unstructured, according to the SAP and IBM paper “Digital Transformation in Energy and Utility Companies.”

Industry convergence is playing a big role in the increased use of data. Converging industries and disruptive technology are redefining multiple industries globally and forcing the creation of innovative business models. The energy and utility sectors are experiencing this through the increased use of smart appliances, energy monitoring systems, net metering, mobile technology, cognitive applications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing.

If your walls can talk – what are they saying?

The marriage of technology companies with traditional energy and utility companies is creating fascinating systems that enable operating technology (OT) systems and information technology (IT) systems to automatically talk to each other. Until recently, these systems could not share information or communicate with one another.

So in essence, now your walls really can talk thanks to wall-mounted smart-grid metering – and what they’re saying is that cognitive computing will change the future of the energy and utilities sectors even more. When OT and IT systems share a common database with near-real-time cognitive computing and data utilization capabilities, they can provide a stronger understanding of what is currently happening and what is most likely to happen in the future.

Innovative real-world examples

Here are some practical examples of how innovative technology is redefining traditional energy and utility procedures:

  • Asset responsiveness: Equipment sensors (OT) can set off a high-temperature alarm, which can automatically send a work order (IT) to a technician’s mobile device
  • Information accessibility: Service orders can be more efficient when cognitive computing provides data about customers, work orders, equipment details, and site history to field technicians
  • Predictive maintenance: Solutions using IoT sensors, predictive analytics, and even weather forecasts can be used to help predict maintenance patterns, schedules, and potential damage to equipment

What else is altering the energy and utility landscape?

Disruptive technology is just one of the elements contributing to the considerable transformation in the energy and utility industries. According to the SAP and IBM paper, the following three elements all play a role:

  • Evolving markets
  • Changing customer expectations
  • Disruptive technology

Evolving energy and utility markets, changing customer expectations, and disruptive technology are all creating a perfect environment for new business models such as self-service and subscription-based models that enable new revenue streams.

Business innovation lead by “prosumers”

Alternative energy sources like geothermal, wind, and solar are also driving an increase in the number of “prosumers” – companies or individuals that act as both consumers and microsuppliers of energy. As renewable energy gains popularity, more people are using and providing energy in this way, and, as a result, their impact on the utility market increases and new business models emerge.

Not only that, smart devices enable greater control over energy consumption, so technology is also making it easier for consumers to make smarter choices about how they use energy. These efficiencies are making it harder for energy companies to maintain the same amount of revenue per customer. As a result, traditional energy and utility companies are being pushed to provide a more personalized experience by offering more connected home products and a more retail-like customer experience. CenterPoint Energy is one example of an energy company that has made significant digital changes to create a more personalized customer experience.

Using data to your advantage

The energy and utility industries are not the only sectors undergoing massive digital transformation. Whether your business is in the energy sector or not, you can use cognitive solutions and data utilization to your advantage. Here are some steps you can take to make significant progress on your digital journey:

  1. Assess your company’s current digital readiness
  1. Develop a digital strategy and reimagine business models and processes
  1. Assess and prioritize opportunities based on value, benefits, ROI, and total cost of ownership
  1. Develop a roadmap that considers cloud and cognitive technology, services, and user experience
  1. Use design thinking to refine, explore, and prototype solutions
  1. Implement solutions on time and on budget
  1. Maximize investments with continuous innovation

The blend of technology with any type of traditional company can create opportunities for innovative business models and emerging revenue streams that could prove to be very lucrative going forward. How can you reimagine your business?

Learn more about Digital Transformation in Energy and Utility Companies.

Find out more about Digital Transformation with IBM and SAP.


Stephanie Reshel

About Stephanie Reshel

Stephanie Reshel is senior director for Strategic Ecosystem Marketing at SAP. She drives joint marketing strategies globally with the top strategic services partners. Follow her on @SReshel.